President Joe Biden’s ad of a $ 2 trillion plan to rebuild infrastructure and reshape our economy was followed by sound clips bYes opponents stating that any “infrastructure” plan should only cover traditional infrastructure such as transport, broadband internet and other basics. Defining infrastructure is a losing battle on both sides. Instead, we should ask America, “How can we use this unique opportunity to make America a place we want to live?”
the American employment plan is an opportunity to recover from a pandemic that exasperated by inequalities in our country, and recover from an election that continues to divide our nation. We can use stimulus investment to go much further than short-term job creation and economic relief. We can and must create a paradigm shift for future infrastructure investments by encouraging co-benefits that extend to many populations, needs and timescales and have long-term economic returns.
Infrastructure designed to reduce flooding with the co-benefit of improving green spaces or restoring ecology will also be reduce our carbon footprint, provide better health outcomes, lengthen human life and ultimately reduce emergency room visits, reducing costs for Medicaid and Medicare which are funded by our taxes. Infrastructure that provides public space can create learning opportunities and build social capital, which is an important determinant of whether communities will fare better in times of crisis, reduce the number of deaths serious events. Open spaces and well-designed neighborhood institutions, essential “social infrastructure,” can also raise property values, decrease in crime and build a society less dependent on government services and more dependent on neighbors. In addition, an infrastructure that takes into account climate projections throughout the duration of the project will allow our grandchildren not to have to rebuild what our generation has already invested in. These projects would also gain greater support from stakeholders, thus ensuring their construction faster and cheaper.
Here is how we do it. First, we mandate the use of a benefit-cost analysis that quantifies future climate needs and weighs the co-benefits for public health, ecology and social infrastructure more heavily in all spending. By enshrining these parameters in legislation or in funding requirements, Congress can effect a change in the way we design and rebuild our country. Whenever possible, every dollar we spend should deliver multiple benefits.
Currently, federal agencies do not use a uniform benefit-cost analysis, and those that often exclude social and environmental benefits from their calculations. If linked to the Jobs Plan, the initiative would become a model for driving long-term changes in all federal infrastructure agencies to better weigh investment opportunities against one another, and resulting projects will be in line with President Biden. broader agenda tackle environmental injustice and climate change by investing in clean energy, modernizing transportation networks and public schools, building affordable housing and reconnecting neighborhoods historically cut off by infrastructure investments.
Second, instead of requiring so-called out-of-the-box projects, encourage thoughtful processes that build for the future. Most local governments do not make the large investments needed in engineering studies and environmental reviews of large-scale projects until construction funds are available. This means that most out-of-the-box projects take blueprints off the shelves and implement the project exactly the same way we’ve done before – applying bandages to chronic disease. A shovel-ready street project would rebuild or repav an existing road, as it was, without determining whether there are opportunities to create co-benefits, such as drainage improvements or planting trees to reduce traffic. urban heat island. This same street may be located in a floodplain and should in fact be raised or moved inland for long term protection, or the money better used in an area of greatest need, but there is has no ready-made plans for the most worthy location. .
By putting aspirations at the top of the plan’s requirements, we can drive better projects early on, while saving federal, local and community money for generations to come.
Amy Chester is the Managing Director of Rebuild by design, a non-profit organization hosted at NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge that brings together international experts to work with local government and community members to create large-scale infrastructure to tackle climate change.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.